How to Grow and Care for Dahlias
Dahlia flowers are stunning show-stoppers in any garden, and there are more than 270,000 varieties of dahlias that are available today. These hardy plants are not fussy and can be grown in any kind of soil. They are easy to care for and come in a variety of exotic colors and shapes. Dahlias can be grown from seeds as well as tubers, though I would consider it a safe bet to grow them from the tubers. These are annuals and will last from late spring to summer.
The dahlia flower is the photographer's delight. The textures and the rich colors make even ordinary photographers like me look like specialists. Though they make wonderful cut flowers and gifts, your gift could last longer if presented as a potted plant. This guide will teach you how to grow and care for these wonderful plants.
How to Grow Dahlias
Any garden soil is good enough for dahlias. Add a little bit of fertilizer low in nitrogen into a pot of loam, moss, and sand, and you could grow dazzling dahlias that can be put the rest of your garden in the shade. Once the dahlias start blooming, even orchids have to take the second place.
Dahlias need plenty of sunshine though, at least about five to six hours a day. Plant the tubers in the sunniest part of your garden. Here in the tropics, they bloom twice a year.
When and How to Plant Your Dahlias
Dahlias can be potted in mid-spring. The tubers should not be buried too deep in the soil. It would be sufficient to have them planted in holes that are six inches deep and covered lightly with loam and peat moss.
These plants are suitable for small spaces as well, as they can be grown in pots. If you grow them in your garden, make sure you space the tubers well, giving 12–18 inches between each plant.
Tips and Tricks
- Some dahlias grow quite tall and need to be supported with stakes, make sure that the stakes are a good six inches away from the plant so that you do not hurt the tuber. Pinching off the head of the plant allows new shoots and buds to form.
- For gardeners who have space restrictions, the dwarf dahlias are a boon. These dwarfs are also suitable to be grown in large clumps and borders.
- Dahlias can be made to bloom all through the season by cutting off the dried flower heads and allowing the plant to branch out further. Watering them frequently—not allowing the soil to dry out too much between watering—helps the dahlia plants to thrive.
- When you harvest the flowers, make sure you cut close to the leaf joint. Cutting above the leaf joint encourages fresh growth and flowering.
- If you want a huge bloom, pinch away the side shoots and buds, allowing only a few huge blooms to develop. This way you will have a huge—perhaps even a dinner plate-sized—dahlia in your garden.
Feeding Dahlia Plants and Preserving the Tubers
The stunning colors and textures of dahlias make them the delight of gardeners. Periodic feeding of fertilizer high in potassium ensures healthy blooms throughout the season. Deadheading also helps get more blooms.
The tubers could be dug up and preserved for the next season when the plant blackens and fades after the flowering season is over. Clean the tubers, dry them in a warm shady place (never directly under the sun), and store them with peat moss in perforated containers or bags during the long winter months. In tropical climates, you could just leave them in the ground, and they will spring back again in the next growing season.
Making Flowers Last
After cutting dahlia flowers for arrangements, you can make your dahlias last longer by placing the stems in a jar of hot water. Make sure you have at least 2 inches of the flower stalk in the water, not any more than that.
Allow the water to come to room temperature in a non-heated place before you arrange them. The immersed part of the stems look a little browned out, but the flowers last for almost a week and stay as gorgeous as ever in a vase.
Fun Facts About Dahlias
- Did you know that dahlias are edible? However, I personally think that the ornamental value of the flower far outweighs its value as a food.
- Dahlia tubers were first used in the treatment of diabetes.
These flowers bloom into the early autumn season, much long after your other blooms have faded. They will soon become your joy and your pride. Even if you are not a great gardener you will soon be looking forward to the season to take out the tubers and to get them growing in your garden. Happy dahlia days to you. :)
Do You Think You Could Grow Dahlias in Your Garden?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
The buds and flower heads of my dahlias became mushy and brown starting in late August. Can I save the tubers for next year, or should I consider them ruined due to the mushy brown flowers?
It shouldn't affect the tubers. If the plant is affected cut the affected portion and let it remain in the ground until the stump dries off. You could then harvest the tuber and preserve it for another season.Helpful 5
Can I leave my tubers in the pot itself? Will they grow?
It depends on your climatic conditions. In the tropics, we leave them as they are and in due season the come right back. In colder climates, you may have to overwinter them.Helpful 5
© 2011 Sophie